I will never forget hearing that word, five months ago today, as I stood in front of a friend’s house in south city St. Louis, while trying to pop the hood to a van. I had been up for four or five days, and had just done a gram shot of Ice about an hour prior. I was trying to pop the hood to the van so that the battery could get charged so my friend could sell it.
I don’t even know if the van ever got sold.
When I heard the word freeze, my hands immediately shot up in the air and I slowly looked behind me. As I was turning my head, I noticed that three vehicles had basically surrounded me. A black Charger, a black Camaro, and a black Avalanche provided a barrier between me and freedom. Behind me, by the Avalanche, stood three men in all black, with bullet proof vests, and they had tasers pointed at me.
“STATE YOUR NAME!”
I managed to push out my first name and one of them dropped his taser and began walking towards me. He took one of my hands, pulled it down and behind my back and latched a hand cuff on me. He then asked what my last name was and I told him my last name. He then latched the other hand cuff on me and told me they had been informed where I was and that I was being arrested for a warrant from a probation violation. Thankfully, once the hand cuffs were on me, the other two put their tasers down.
I’m not sure what they thought was going to happen when they showed up. Maybe they thought that I was going to run or get violent. In all honesty, every piece of me breathed a sigh of relief. I was ready to go to jail.
You see, I am now no stranger to this process. This arrest was my third one. The previous two had been a mess. I cried and begged and acted in a way that my 81-year-old grandmother would be appalled with. This time, I simply was thankful that it was all said and done with.
I had been running for six and a half months from the police. Somehow, I had managed to be on the Crime Stoppers of St. Louis’ Most Wanted List. Let me state this now, I AM NOT PROUD OF THAT FACT. In fact, I still can’t believe that I was on it. Someone, I still don’t know who it was, nor do I care, had called in and told the police where I was. The police then sent the Jump Out Boys to come get me. The Jump Out Boys are nicknamed such by the people in the city because that is exactly what they do. They drive in undercover cars around the city and will jump out on you with a quickness and take you right to jail. Their reputation is to be very aggressive but, to be honest, I have zero complaints about them.
They allowed me to get extra clothes to wear to jail and let me smoke a cigarette. I left all my personal property (body jewelry, shoe laces, cell phone, etc.) at my friend’s house and after about forty-five minutes of talking, they loaded me up in the Avalanche and took me to jail.
This day marked the first day of the rest of my life.
Five months ago, as I was going to jail, I simply looked out of the window en route to the St. Louis City Justice Center. The officer driving the Avalanche asked me questions such as how did I support myself without work and if I had any dope on me. I explained to him that I did not have any dope on my (twice) and that I would do odd jobs for people. Maybe I would take pictures, design business cards, clean houses, etc. I neglected to tell him that I boosted from stores, stole from places to survive and basically had nothing to my name. I felt he didn’t need to know all of that.
As I looked out the window, during the silent parts of the ride, I found that I was strangely calm. At that point, I figured I was going to prison. The reason I thought that is because during the six and a half months that I ran, I ran from probation that was given to me with a ten-year back up that held an 85% remand. What that means is I would have to do eight and a half years before I was eligible for good time, if the judge saw fit. Strangely, I was at peace with this.
The six and a half months that I ran were rough. I hadn’t seen my boys in five and half months. I slept anywhere I could: couches, cars, vacant homes, and parks. I made friends and lost them within the blink of an eye. I gained items and lost them just as quickly. And I stayed high. If I wasn’t using, I was looking to get dope. If I wasn’t looking to get dope I was either on a mission to get more dope I’d already found, find somewhere to stay, find something to wear, find something to eat, or just walking around.
I’m honestly surprised that I still remember those six and a half months.
My travels caused me to cross paths with people who were not good people. My gut would tell me not to trust them, but I did anyway because I figured I had nothing to lose. The things that happened to me I still cannot discuss without my anxiety spiking. Even as I skate the edges of the memory through writing this, I feel anxious.
Back to the drive to jail.
I was still saddened though at the thought of going to prison because I hadn’t seen my boys and because I felt that I still had so much to do in life. After they put me through general processing, before I went upstairs to be booked, I found that I was lost in my thoughts. I kept wondering what would have happened if I would have just stopped getting high and would have done what I was supposed to do. I also found that I was praying. I prayed that God would give me just one last chance.
You know, the good ol’ jail prayer. That one last ‘Hail Mary’ to God, promising that if he allowed me a way out of the bad decision, I would change. Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I really meant it.
I’d landed myself in the workhouse. Three weeks later, I went in front of the judge, the same judge that had been lenient on me on April 21, 2017, and gave me probation instead of sending me to prison. I had lied to his face and promised to do all the things I was supposed to in order to stay clean and be a productive member of society. That same day I was released from jail, I went and got high. I didn’t even try then. And here I was, back in the same court room, in the exact same spot that I was in the last time I had seen him. The only difference was I didn’t have a lawyer.
At least I thought I didn’t have one. You see, when I was released in April, I was bonded out for two thousand dollars on a second case. My lawyer had posted my bond. I ran on his bond. I also did not keep in contact with him the entire time I was on the run. I even went as far as to block him from Facebook because I felt so guilty for what I had done and continued to do but I felt then that I couldn’t turn back. Turning myself in was never an option. I guess I figured it would magically sort itself out.
So, as I sat in the court room, fidgeting, glancing up at the door the judge would enter from, and out the window to freedom, I tried to keep my mind busy in order to avoid an all-out emotional breakdown. Every time the doors to the court room would open, I’d look towards them, hoping that my Mom or Dad or SOMEONE would show up for me. As the minutes ticked by, and more people walked in and out, I realized that nobody was coming for me. I began to settle into the mindset that I was going to have to battle this, alone, from jail, something that I knew was pretty much impossible for me to do. Then, I heard the doors open again.
My lawyer had arrived.
I promise you now that I thought I was seeing things. Then my brain told me that he was there on another case. He came and sat by me and said, “Hello.” If I could have rubbed both of my eyes in order to reassure myself it wasn’t a dream, I would have. It wasn’t. I swear my lawyer is my guardian angel.
As we talked, he told me that he was going to see if he could get me a 120-day shock. What this means is that I would go to a women’s prison and enter into a shock program, or a behavioral modification program. Basically, they try to retrain your way of thinking. When I heard that, I stopped him and asked him to get me Drug Court.
I don’t know where it came from, but I said it.
My lawyer looked at me like I was CRAZY. Prior to this, I was passionately against Drug Court. This is because I didn’t see why I couldn’t drink if I didn’t have a drinking problem. I felt I was over the age so I should be able to drink. Also, all the horror stories I had heard made me not want it. Now, some force took over me and volunteered me for Drug Court. Strangely, I felt even more at peace with that decision than anything else.
My lawyer seemed iffy on whether or not I would get it. He said he would see what he could do but couldn’t make any promises. After that I signed paperwork, was taken back to the bull pen to wait for the bus back to the workhouse, and went back “home”.
Yes, I called the workhouse home because it really was the only home I had. I was homeless prior to my arrest and this was the first address I could claim in months.
The weeks passed by and I didn’t hear anything. Then one more morning I was awoken by the CO at 3:30 am and told to get ready for court. I had NO CLUE about this but was excited. I rapidly got dressed and shoved all my stuff in my bucket and exited my cell. Once my bucket was labeled, the CO escorted myself and a few other girls up to the main bull pen, where you sit for about five hours while waiting on the bus to go to the St. Louis Justice Center.
It was cold and I was freezing, but I was too excited to care.
When I got to the City Justice Center I was escorted to an elevator, then to a room where I was with several other inmates. As it turned out, I was being screened for Drug Court. I had to meet with two different people who asked me tons of questions. They asked about my childhood, my adult life, when I started using drugs, what drugs I had done, how long I had done drugs, how my mental state was, how my family life, etc. Once that was complete, I went back to the bull pen then was sent back to the workhouse. I was not told if I was accepted or not that day, but I had realized something new.
I hadn’t been clean in twenty years.
That little fact was a big deal. It had been twenty years since I had been clear-headed. That meant that the last time I was clean I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Granted, I smoked weed and drank a little but that still constitutes to being under the influence. I never realized that my addiction issues had reached back that far and this made me think.
Originally, I thought that I asked for Drug Court so that I could avoid going to prison and get out sooner. When I came to the understanding that I had been an addict to SOMETHING for TWENTY YEARS, I really started to evaluate my life. I sat back and really started to think. I had been praying nightly for God to see it fit for me to be accepted into Drug Court.
A couple of weeks later, I went back to Drug Court. In fact, it was the Thursday before Christmas. I had hoped that I was going home that day because I wanted to be with my boys at Christmas so badly. By now, I had almost two months clean and the haze around my brain was clearing. I didn’t even know if I was accepted or not yet, I just believed I was going home.
I was wrong.
That day I was told that I was accepted into Drug Court but I would not be released until I plead out on the case that I ran from on bond. Not only did I have to plea out on it but the judge who now presided over both of my cases (since my first judge’s last day was the day I asked for Drug Court) had to okay the motion to run my two cases concurrent, and allow me to take Drug Court. Instead of being upset or hurt, I was excited that I had been accepted into Drug Court. I then went back to the workhouse and prayed harder.
The first Monday after the New Years holiday, January 8, 2018, I was called to court again. This time, I was placed in front of my new judge with my lawyer by my side. My lawyer did all the talking and I only spoke when I was addressed. My judge authorized my cases be run with each other and okayed me to take Drug Court. Before I took my seat to wait on everyone else to see the judge, he told me something that has been branded into my mind.
What he said to me was this: If he sees me before I graduate Drug Court, there will be no discussion of whether or not I go to prison. We will be discussing if my two sentences will be run as consecutive or concurrent. What that means is either the ten-year sentence and the seven-year sentence will be run back-to-back or with each other.
As if I wasn’t already solid in my resolve to quit using, this pretty much cemented the thought. I don’t want to go to prison or ever be separated from my children again.
It took another two weeks before I was released. I was released on January 24, 2018 and I have been doing well ever since then.
I haven’t dropped dirty once. I attend all of my groups, I even attended extra groups VOLUNTARILY when I was in Phase One of the program just to get the extra help. I have been attending meetings since I got out, not even needing to go to them until Phase Two. I graduated from Phase One and began Phase Two on February 24, 2018. That was exactly once month after I started the program and was released from jail. I graduated from the treatment program, First Steps, after seven weeks. This was a full week early, each participant typically having to be in it for eight weeks. I have had a sponsor since week one.
Basically, I am keeping my promise with God.
Five months ago today, I was a broken girl who had resigned that my life was over. Not only had I resigned that my life was over, but I was okay with it. Somewhere during my time in prison, I found my faith and began to fight for my life back. Now, I fight for my life on a daily basis. The battle may not be as intense but I promise you it is still there. The difference now is that I have the tools to defend myself from stupid decisions that will take my freedom and life from me.
I tell everyone that I can’t promise recovery will be easy, because it won’t be. What I can promise is that it is so worth it – and really it is. I have not been this happy in, well I can’t remember how long. Yes, I still have bad days. I have days where I’m angry, hurt, depressed, irate…all of it. The difference between now and then is that I don’t turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. I actually try to solve the issue as they come. I sit down and evaluate the events in my life and try to figure out why I feel the way I do. Once I figure it out, I try to determine how I can fix it or ease it. I have accepted that everything is not fixable and that is fine. I have also come to terms that I don’t have to be perfect and that is okay, too.
If you find that you are still struggling with your addiction, remember one thing: We are all human. We all have days where we just want to give up and we think that we are worthless. Just know that this is the furthest from the truth. Everyone has the right to live a life clean and happily. Whether you have to reach out to a stranger or your best friend, do it. If it means you have to walk away from everything you know in order to get clean, do it. There is NOTHING in this world that is worth more than your own sense of self and when you are high, it’s not feeling an accurate sense of self. You OWE it to YOURSELF to get clean.
I believe in you. Regardless if I know you or not, I truly believe in you.